Estonia entrusts its terabytes of information to its allies in order to improve the security of key government systems.
Long-standing political stability and prosperity have made Luxembourg, a small European country, a reliable location for the storage of sensitive data.
Luxembourg has 23 high-tech data centers and high-speed internet connections, the majority of which have been built in the last 10 years. NATO and the European Union choseed Luxembourg to store data in the past. Luxembourg is now Estonia’s preferred country for data storage.
In early June, Estonia transferred four key databases of information, including land and business records, to servers in one of Luxembourg’s high-security data centers.
Six different data packages are planned to be moved in September.
“Our government provided data center services along with immunity. This is the innovative part of it,” Patrick Houtsch, director of Luxembourg’s government information technology center, said. “Of course, they could have stored their data in some public cloud or service provider, but they would not have the same guarantees in terms of being able to completely protect and know where the information is.”
At a time when technology giants are facing increasing distrust, Estonia entrusts its terabytes of information to its allies in hopes of improving the security of key government systems. Estonia’s 1.3 million citizens can make tax, vote, bank, travel arrangements and access health records online within minutes using a high-tech national ID card system.
In 2007, Estonia exposed you to a cyber attack that destroyed private and government websites. Russia was pointed out for the attack, but the Kremlin denied the accusation.
Therefore, Estonia has opted outside its borders to secure its data in the event of a military attack or other major emergency.
Special Agreement Between Two Countries
In June 2017, the two countries signed a bilateral agreement guaranteeing that Estonia’s data embassy in Luxembourg would be ‘untouchable’. Just like the immunity a normal embassy would have. Luxembourg authorities, such as administrative, judicial, military or Police, cannot access the data center where the data is held without the permission of the Estonian authorities.
“The agreement we have with Luxembourg is that it’s our territory, our jurisdiction,” Siim Sikkut, chief information officer for the government of Estonia, said.
When governments contract with private companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft for cloud services, there may be a lack of protection for public information.
Estonia had planned to store public data in Microsoft Azure. This option was tested between Estonia and Microsoft in 2014, but did not provide the level of control Estonia is looking for.
Estonia currently pays 200,000 to 300,000 euros ($ 226,000 to $ 339,000) per year for hosting Luxembourg’s data.
“We didn’t want to use a random cloud that’s somewhere around the world, where we don’t know what sort of rules and laws apply to the data we put there,” Sikkut said. “We wanted to have full jurisdiction over the data. No private cloud partner can really do that.”